Hunger on Campus: The Hidden Need
When many people think of child hunger, they think of young children, or perhaps teenagers in high school. But there’s another population of kids that are going hungry: college students. As college costs continue to climb, many students are finding it hard to survive even on cereal and ramen noodles.
In response to the growing problem of campus hunger, some colleges are starting their own food shelves and distributions. At Minnesota State University – Mankato (MSU), students have access to food at the Campus Cupboard, created by students for students in conjunction with Crossroads Campus Ministry.
In January, MSU held its first-ever indoor Farmer’s Market with 4,500 pounds of fresh produce from Second Harvest Heartland. More than 800 students filled grocery bags with fresh cucumbers, apples, onions, kiwi and more, selecting from tables spread out in the student union.
Anna Lambrecht, a senior at MSU, was one of the students who visited the Farmer’s Market. The marketing major, who works on campus and plans on starting an internship soon, called the free Farmer’s Market nothing short of a Godsend.
“I had zero dollars to my name, and my boyfriend actually had a negative balance in his account,” she said. “Neither of us had anything in our pantries besides ramen noodles. I can’t even remember the last time I’d had a fresh vegetable before the market.”
With a full course load and without a car to make the two-hour drive to her parent’s house, Anna only gets a homecooked meal once every few months.
“Rent is high whether you live on-campus or off, and though there’s a meal plan you can get on campus, it’s expensive,” she said. “Hunger isn’t something people really talk about on campus, but it’s a lot more common than people let on. Not all students get money from their parents.”
Since visiting the Farmer’s Market, Anna and her boyfriend, Dellen, have started to use ECHO Food Shelf in Mankato in addition to the Campus Pantry.
ECHO (The Emergency Community Help Organization) provides emergency food assistance to people in Blue Earth County and North Mankato. Monthly, ECHO distributes 160,000 pounds of food to approximately 1,700 households.
“We were embarrassed at first, but everyone at the food shelf was really helpful and no one judges you there,” she said. “Not having to worry about what we’ll eat has relieved us of so much stress.”
Research into how and why college students are more likely than the general population to experience food insecurity is only just emerging. However, research at the local level indicates that as many as three out of four college students do not have sustainable access to healthy food.
Give help, get help
Second Harvest Heartland partners with colleges and universities in its service area to provide food distributions and assist in the planning and development of campus food pantries. Learn more about how you can help, or if you need help finding food for yourself or someone you know, visit our website.